CINCINNATI -- Ah, a September weeknight in the city of Cincinnati.
The air is crisp after the humid sun sets, the school buses and traffic clear as the afternoon rolls on and what else is there to do in the evening than head downtown to cheer on your Cincinnati Reds, who are right in the thick of a heated pennant race.
But if you were actually down at Great American Ball Park in the last four days, you wouldn't know that Cincinnati is in a game-by-game battle with four teams to secure one of three available postseason spots with less than a month to go, nor would you know that this past four-game series was the most important in the season thus far against one of those teams that the Reds are battling for said pennant, nor would you know that this team was the Reds' biggest rival of the last decade, who they won't meet again until (and if) they reach the playoffs.
Attendance for the series against the St. Louis Cardinals was a low 24,621 fans per game, with the totals at GABP only eclipsing the 30,000 mark once.
On Labor Day, a game that was set up like a weekend matchup, purposely scheduled at 1 p.m. so fans could enjoy the day off with the sun reflecting off of the Ohio River, still with enough time to have a family grill-out for dinner, only garnered an official 32,951 (approx. 78 percent of the park's seats), barely above the season average of 31,333, and if you saw the game, many fans were late and left early.
And it isn't just that the ballpark wasn't filling up, it's where it wasn't filling up. There were thousands of seats $25 or less available, with seemingly more butts in the expensive seats at field level than there were up in view level.
Poor attendance is often blamed on bad weather. In this case, the weather couldn't have been more ideal. Temps stuck around in the 70s and 80s during all four games, with some good sun on Labor Day to bask in, and at no point did it ever downpour or was there a threat of storms. Rain was light and scattered at best in the Greater Cincinnati area, and it was nowhere to be found on the banks of the river.
Poor attendance is also often blamed on weak opponents. Not this week. The Cardinals are the second best team in the NL Central, 1.5 games in front of the Reds and 1.5 games behind the 1st place Pittsburgh Pirates. Not to mention they are supposedly the most hated opponent of Reds fans, and have had such tense games culminate in bench-clearing brawls and generally impassioned play.
Even some Reds players noticed the weak showing.
Sam LeCure tweeted on Wednesday "sure would be nice to see a packed house tonight against a team we are chasing to go to the playoffs...hint hint"
Jay Bruce, normally outspoken on Twitter, decided to quit the social media site this week, citing the overwhelming ridicule from fans.
JJ Hoover followed LeCure's lead, tweeting back at Reds writer Jamie Ramsey about Tuesday's attendance "you ain't lying that was a pitiful showing last night. Thought we were trying to break an attendance record"
Yes, the Reds reached 2 million fans faster than any other time in GABP history, but again, looking at this week's "divisional rival" series, you wouldn't know it.
Want some motivation to get to a game down the homestretch of September? How's this: The St. Louis Cardinals average 41,900 fans per game at Busch Stadium, 10,000 more than the Reds this year.
By comparison, in an August weekday series for the Reds in St. Louis, the Cardinals got 35,159, 35,201 and 35,698 in attendance, more than 10,000 fans per game on average than Cincinnati was able to muster.
I don't even want to venture a guess at what the percentage of fans at GABP were Cardinals supporters this week; much of the cheering heard when things went the Cardinals way was louder than when things went the Reds way, despite a 3-1 series victory for the Reds.
Doesn't that put a bad taste in your mouth? Doesn't that make your fist clench? It should.
This city is one built on pride. We were the pork capitol of the world. We're the consumer product capitol of the world. We love that Skyline Chili is scarcely enjoyed outside of the Tri-State region.
More poignantly: We started professional baseball, but judging by this week's support, as a visiting fan, you sure wouldn't know it.
The Great Eight are in town this weekend, one of the best team's in MLB history. Average attendance in the 1970s was 26,609, which most seasons averaged out to almost 1 million fans more per season than the MLB average in those days. This year, the Reds sit at a mediocre 17th most attended in the league, below the league average.
What would The Great Eight have to say about this attendance dip at the most important time of the season?
It should be noted that while the attendance dipped, a Fox Sports Ohio spokesperson told the Cincinnati Business Courier that they set non-Opening Day TV ratings records during the series. On Wednesday night, according to Fox Sports Ohio spokeswoman Kate Zelasko, the 16-inning marathon recorded a 13.5 household rating, or in other words, 13.5 percent of all Greater Cincinnati TV households watched part of the contest. That totals up to around 120,000 homes, according to the Business Courier.
Tuesday night’s game, one of the MLB's most thrilling this season, that ended in a Reds 1-0 victory, pulled in an 11.1 rating, which was the season’s highest rating, Zelasko told the Business Courier, until Wednesday’s game topped it.
All that said, the Reds don't hear your support through a TV screen. Their will to strikeout another batter or to make that diving catch is not urged on through the volume button.
This isn't a plug for Reds ticket sales, this isn't a commentary about the direction of the team and whether they are or are not doing the right things from a managerial perspective to get fans in the seats, this is an acknowledgement that the biggest series of the season against the team's biggest rival didn't even get close to the average attendance.
This is your wake up call Cincinnati Reds fans: You have 12 home games left in the regular season. If you want this team to rally with the emotion it needs to vault into the playoffs and be successful in the postseason, they need you.
Be the 10th man Reds Country. Give this team the claps, the shouts, the "Woos!", the Choooos and Bruuuuces it needs. Get behind Joey Votto rather than scream at him during his most recent slump. Celebrate each play Todd Frazier successfully converts from third base. Encourage the seemingly simple pop fly caught by whomever starts in left field. Cheer for every strike that Mike Leake throws, every ground ball Bronson Arroyo gets, every pop out Homer Bailey records, every whiff on a Tony Cingrani fastball, every strikeout Mat Latos puts up (and not just when you get free pizza). Sure, everyone cheers when Aroldis Chapman takes the mound and Billy Hamilton pinch runs, but there are 100 other reasons to get behind this team. Cheer for them all.
These guys have a shot this year, and they need more of a reason to play than just for their next contract or personal pride. They need a city to play for.
Let's act like we give a damn. Let's be that proud city.
Get your tickets here http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/ticketing/index.jsp?c_id=cin.
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